One Pennsylvania ecosystem enters the court fray over fracking waste

In a sparsely populated township in western Pennsylvania, one ecosystem is attempting to enter a court battle in its own name.

In Grant Township, Pennsylvania General Energy wants to convert one of its fracking wells into a waste disposal well. It received a permit from the U.S. Environmental Protection agency in March.

Township residents are concerned the fracking waste could contaminate the watershed. All the township’s residents use private wells for their drinking water.

The township passed a Community Bill of Rights Ordinance in June, which would effectively ban such injection wells. It states, in part:

“All residents of Grant Township, along with natural communities and ecosystems within the Township, possess the right to clean air, water, and soil, which shall include the right to be free from activities which may pose potential risks to clean air, water, and soil within the Township, including the depositing of waste from oil and gas extraction.”

Unsurprisingly, PGE filed a federal lawsuit in August. PGE wants the court to overturn the ordinance.

In a novel move, the ecosystem — the Little Mahoning Watershed — filed a motion to intervene in the case in November, asserting that nature has its own rights to “exist and flourish.”

“This represents the first time an ecosystem is seeking to defend its legally enforceable rights to exist and flourish by intervening in a lawsuit,” said Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Thomas Linzey in a news release.

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